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Ultrasound for Dogs & Cats: What Pet Owners Want to Know

You've just learned that your dog requires an ultrasound. So, what does this procedure entail, and how does it benefit your pet? Our veterinarians in Monterey Park detail the process of performing ultrasound scans for dogs and cats in our in-house veterinary diagnostic lab.

Veterinary Ultrasounds

It's common for pets to experience health issues such as cysts or tumors requiring treatment or engaging in activities they shouldn't. In such cases and more, your veterinarian may deem it necessary for your pet to undergo an ultrasound to assess the problem before offering a diagnosis and treatment plan.

Ultrasounds involve transmitting sound waves into your pet's body to create an image of a particular body part. They are a type of imaging technology.

Veterinary ultrasounds are non-invasive and can be utilized to diagnose or assess issues in an animal's internal organs or monitor a pregnancy.

Reasons Your Pet May Need an Ultrasound 

Ultrasounds empower our vets at Monterey Park to examine your pet's internal organ structure. Throughout this assessment, we can uncover and pinpoint obstructions, tumors, or other issues.

At Veterinary Healthcare Center, we conduct ultrasounds for cats and dogs in our in-house veterinary diagnostic laboratory. Our team of veterinarians utilizes ultrasounds and other diagnostic tools to diagnose your pet's medical conditions precisely, ensuring the most effective treatment.

Ultrasound enables us to differentiate foreign bodies or fluid from soft tissue masses—a task that digital X-rays may find challenging or impossible. These sound waves generated by the ultrasound pose no harm or discomfort to your cat or dog.

Conditions That May Require an Ultrasound 

Here are some conditions that commonly require veterinary ultrasounds. 

Abnormal Blood or Urine Test Results 

Has your vet detected abnormalities in your pet's blood or urine tests? Your vet may recommend an abdominal ultrasound to obtain a clear picture of your pet's internal organ health, including the kidneys, lymph nodes, spleen, liver, urinary bladder, or other areas, and to determine the cause of the abnormalities.

Heart Conditions 

If your cat or dog has been diagnosed with a heart condition, we may need to conduct a heart ultrasound or echocardiogram to evaluate your pet's heart's general condition and to check for any abnormalities. 

Examination of Soft Tissues 

Almost all soft tissues can be examined using ultrasound technology. Some of the most common areas that ultrasounds are used to check include:

  • Fetal vitality and development
  • Eyes
  • Ligaments
  • Tendons
  • Thyroid glands 

If abnormal tissue is detected during an ultrasound, your veterinarian may also use this imaging technology to help collect tissue samples from the area that's been affected. 

Ultrasound-Assisted Tissue Collection

Samples are typically collected using these methods:

  • Tru-Cut biopsies
  • Ultrasound-guided fine needle aspiration

If your vet will be performing an ultrasound-assisted tissue collection, your pet will likely be sedated. We can perform biopsies in a less invasive manner with ultrasounds than with surgeries.

Types of Ultrasounds

Your vet may perform these two types of ultrasounds or refer you to a veterinary specialist to have them completed:

Emergency Ultrasound

In case of a pet emergency, the ultrasound typically targets the abdomen and chest to swiftly determine if your dog or cat is suffering from a significant internal hemorrhage (bleeding) or pneumothorax (a condition where gas or air accumulates around the lungs). This approach aids in promptly diagnosing the problem, enabling us to devise effective treatment strategies.


Also known as cardiac ultrasounds, these detailed scans enable us to evaluate the heart and its surrounding structures closely, including the pericardial sac. This assessment determines the proper functioning of the heart and detects any malfunctions.

Although echocardiograms are typically painless, they involve several measurements and calculations. If your pet has recently been diagnosed with a heart murmur or is exhibiting signs of heart disease, our specialists may refer them for an echocardiogram.

Upon identifying an abnormality in an organ, we can perform an ultrasound-guided biopsy to obtain a sample of the affected tissue. This biopsy allows us to collect tissue for microscopic inspection, providing further diagnostic insights. In many instances, this procedure leads to a diagnosis.

How To Prepare Your Pet for an Ultrasound

Different preparations are required for ultrasounds on different areas of the body. Consult your vet to determine how to prepare your pet for their ultrasound.

You may need to withhold food and water for 8 to 12 hours, especially for abdominal ultrasounds. Optimal examination of the urinary bladder occurs when it is full of urine. Therefore, your cat or dog should ideally not urinate for about 3 to 6 hours before the ultrasound.

The area under examination will likely require shaving to produce clear images. While most pets will cooperate and remain still during the ultrasound, some may require sedation.

If biopsies are necessary, your pet will require heavy sedation or a short-acting anesthetic to relax during the procedure and prevent potential complications that could hinder success. Your veterinarian will advise you if this is needed.

Getting Your Pet's Ultrasound Results

Because our veterinarians can perform ultrasounds for pets in real time, we can see results almost immediately. In some cases, ultrasound images will be sent to a veterinary radiologist after they're captured for further consultation. In these cases, you may need to wait a few days for the final result.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

Your veterinarian at Veterinary Healthcare Center can tell you whether your pet will need an ultrasound. Please book an appointment for an exam.

New Patients Welcome

Veterinary Healthcare Center is accepting new patients! Our experienced vets are passionate about the health of Monterey Park companion animals. Get in touch today to book your pet's first appointment.

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